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Malayalam Films

It all started with... Her Nights
Thursday July 6 2006 17:55 IST

G Babu Jayakumar

It was with Her Nights that the South Indian movie-goer had his maiden bite of forbidden fruit. Finding himself ogling at the gossamer garment of a rain-soaked streetwalker in that 1978 black-and-white blockbuster, Avalude Raavugal (Her Nights), the movie-goer tasted sleaze, albeit served tastefully, for the first time in an Indian film. That anti-heroine, however, was created by renowned Malayalam director I V Sasi only to tell a poignant story of her decent friendship with a well-meaning man, who, incidentally, lends his white and not so long shirt to help her change when she gets drenched. The idea wasnt just to titillate.

But, looking back, that single scene seems to have opened the floodgates for smut to flow into cinema halls across the country. What has today evolved into a full-bodied porn industry was actually an offshoot of mainstream cinema or the middle-stream as they called it in Kerala where a bid was made to blend commercial and arthouse forms by directors such as Sasi and Bharatan.

Whether he was inspired by the overwhelming interest Avalude Raavugal evoked outside Kerala or not, Bharatan churned out his own colour film with a path-breaking sexual theme the same year, 1978. Going by the standards of the day, when most of the films hitting the screens bear the A certificate, Rathi Nirvedham is kids stuff. It is the story of an adolescents sexual obsession with an older woman and his subsequent triumph during a summer vacation a taboo theme handled without vulgarity.

Throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s, sex was deftly woven into storylines of mainstream cinema and Malayalam films earned the dubious distinction of coming out with one such movie after the other. For an audience that had to depend on Hollywood flicks for titillation, Malayalam cinema now offered an alternative and gained widespread patronage. The term Malayalam movie gained a salacious connotation a far cry from its earlier image of award-seeking art works with no appeal for the masses.

Encouraged by the long queues that Malayalam films attracted all over the country, the dream merchants of Kerala started rewriting their scripts, facilitating the characters to have intimate, and often illegitimate, encounters. Their female characters had the penchant to keep themselves clean by constantly bathing, draped in white towels, while the male characters indulged in voyeurism.

Most Malayalam movies made in the 1980s had intimate scenes and the storylines themselves were titillating. But there was a hitch: the movies had innocuous titles that could not draw the man on the street, particularly those outside Kerala, to the cinema halls. So when such movies were exported, their names were replaced with more suggestive titles. So Thamburati would become Thamburatis Delightful Nights. Mazhu (axe) would become A Father-in-laws Amorous Pursuits.

By that time, or even much earlier, Malayalam movies had come to denote a stag party, an all-men affair at certain cinema halls which were shunned by women in almost every one-horse town, thus starting a new trend in film-watching itself. It was the steamy scenes alone that warmed the hearts of men who watched them in the cavernous halls and discussed them at their local tea shops. In states such as Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, where star-gazing is a passion, no one asked who starred in a Malayalam film. No one even bothered what the actresses looked like. Soft porn, as a genre, was, however, yet to be born.

Since making such films does not involve big budgets, they were produced like quickies and to beat the ennui of watching the same scenes, the makers and actors became bolder to reveal more. But the Censors cut to size anything that was taken beyond a point, even if the films were to be given the A certificate, while the select band of soft porn connoisseurs was demanding more.

It was then that the bit culture came into being. Steamy bedroom scenes or clippings of a woman taking a bath under a shower or waterfall were interpolated to the otherwise insipid films cleared by the Censors. Interpolation of bathing scenes became so common that established actresses of the time refused to shoot a scene that would show them entering a bathroom they feared they would be replaced by a soft-porn actress inside the bathroom. But the titillation-seeking audience never had it so good.

Since the cinema halls that showed interpolated rolls were seedy ones and the audience too of a riff-raff kind, the bits were shown at the sole discretion of the projector operator, who would occasionally accede to the demand for an encore. But the interpolation business saw a downward trend in the late 1980s with the video boom, when people had easier access to porn.

It was then that Shakeela arrived on the scene along with a band of nymphets to sizzle the screens. The green-eyed buxom woman, known more for the length of her cleavage, made her debut in a B-grade movie called Playgirls and never looked back.

Shakeela, in a way, gave a fillip to the Malayalam film industry, in the sense that she did not let it die. The industry was facing a crisis due to video piracy and a host of other factors. But Shakeela pulled the crowds back and gave a new lease of life to many cinema halls in Kerala. It is a different matter that Shakeelas impact was national: her films have been dubbed even in Assamese.

She has now retired from soft porn cinema, tired of the sex goddess image, and is now only available for character roles she is a sex therapist in the Tamil film Unarchigal and Sister Mary Magdalene in Ee Abhaya Theeram, a Malayalam movie by Alex Thangachan. But the soft porn industry is far from finished: in 2001, 57 of the 89 films made in Kerala were of the sizzling kind. The next year, 50 percent of the 80 movies made belonged to the genre. The number of cinema halls showing such movies might have dwindled, but the ones that remain in business seem to be doing well with the same crowds, which now wants hard porn: the shapely Seema, the Avalude Raavugal heroine who subsequently married the director I V Sasi, can only evoke laughter today in that transparent shirt.

"Aur Vaise Bhi, Sharafat ki jab kapde utarti hai, sabse zyaada mazaa shareefon ko hi aati hai"....(From The Dirty Picture)

Warning !! SCAM ALERT !! &
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Senior Desi
Member since: Jan 04
Posts: 1754
Location: Ottawa (Now in Bangalore)

Post ID: 80751 08-07-06 12:33:18
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Senior Desi
Member since: Dec 04

Posts: 768

Interesting article about a small segment of the malayalam movie scenario. In todays situation the only Indian film community producing realistic films and not hyperbole or unreality movies are the malayalam film community. At one point of time there was an upsurge of these types of soft porn movies, which no longer is the case now.

The best actor in the Indian subcontinent today is from Malayalam and his name is Mohan Lal. He has done plenty of classic movies which include His Highness Abdullah, a movie as a Kathakali person, another movie as an Alzhemier patient are seen to believe his calibre. Even Kamalhassan has not had the guts to do the range of movies/characters performed by many of the roles done by Mohanlal. For every soft porn there are 5 other classic movies and directors like Adoor Gopalakrishnan.

Todays soft porn capital of India is Mumbai. Every B/C grade movies are released in UP/Bihar with inserts all shot in Mumbai.That does not make Govind Nihalini or Sanjay leela bhansali to be classified under the \"Hindi Movies\" for similar article.

Please try to see a movie called Guru starring Mohan Lal with music by Illayaraja to judge the quality of malayalam movies. This movie was was India's entry for Oscars.

My 2 paise's on this topic !.

Speech by Thomas Friedman of The New York Times....

"When we were young kids growing up in America, we were told to eat our
vegetables at dinner and not leave them. Mothers said, 'think of the
starving children in India and finish the dinner.' And now I tell my
children: 'Finish your maths homework. Think of the children in India
who would make you starve, if you don't.'"

Post ID: 80764 08-07-06 16:02:44
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Senior Desi
Member since: Jul 04

Posts: 1651
Location: (0,0,0)

Originally posted by shankaracharya

The best actor in the Indian subcontinent today is from Malayalam and his name is Mohan Lal.



Post ID: 80858 10-07-06 11:34:05
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Junior Desi
Member since: Aug 04

Posts: 22
Location: toronto

looks like we can make sweeping statements (like mohanlal is the best actor in the sub continent)

I think tushar kapoor is the best actor in the indian part of the subcontinent

rajinikant is the oldest hero in the sub continent

shakeela (malayalam adult movie star) is the best actress in kerala

sreesanth is the best batsman in any continent

guys, dont question any of these.

Post ID: 80911 10-07-06 20:03:46
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